England captain Dylan Hartley says he will “carry kit and scrub boots” to be involved in the national team’s plans to win next year’s World Cup in Japan.
The 32-year-old hooker has not played internationally since suffering a concussion in the Six Nations in March.
But Hartley returned for his club side Northampton this season and was also part of England’s 36-man training camp in Bristol this week.
“When you’re not involved it’s a pretty lonely place,” Hartley said.
“So to be in the room and involved with the team again is a huge privilege.
“When you can be included in trying to be the best rugby team in the world it’s a great place to be, not everyone can be there. I’ll carry the kit, scrub the boots and do anything to be involved.”
Regular captain Hartley missed the end of last season and England’s June series defeat in South Africa after being concussed in March’s defeat by Ireland – his third such injury.
But the Northampton co-captain, who he has featured in all four of Saints’ games this season, says he is now “feeling right again” and enjoying his rugby.
“I tried getting better, I tried playing every week and tried getting back for Northampton and the tour,” he told BBC Radio 5 live’s Sonja McLaughlan.
“But the harder I tried the worse it made me feel. The day I said let’s just take the foot off the gas, I actually started feeling better.
“And now four or five months later I’m feeling pretty bloody good. I’m excited, enjoying playing the game and enjoying being involved with both Northampton and back here.”
‘We’re not counting games’
After suffering a single defeat throughout 2016 and 2017, England’s form has dipped dramatically in 2018, with just three victories in nine matches.
But Hartley, who still believes he can add value as a leader in the squad, says England are only looking forward.
“Everyone is counting and we’ve never counted. We didn’t count when we won games,” he said.
“We actually won our last game and everyone is still talking about losses but we’re not talking about either, we’re just looking forward to the next game.”
Jones will name his squad for the November internationals on 18 October, with England facing South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia in consecutive weekends at Twickenham.
“Both of our camps have been geared towards beating South Africa at Twickenham in a month’s time,” Hartley added.
“We’re not getting caught up in what happened in the past, because a lot of good happened there too. We’re just looking forward. We’re within the World Cup year now and all these games head towards that.”
Teaching an old dog new tricks
England have appointed New Zealander John Mitchell as their defence coach before the autumn internationals.
The 54-year-old coached England’s forwards under Sir Clive Woodward at the end of the 1990s, and the Kiwi also held roles at Wasps, Sale and the USA.
Hartley believes Mitchell’s experience is invaluable, and is already learning from him – despite the fact Mitchell has never held the role of defence coach before.
“He’s won big games and World Cups but also lost big games too and all that experience is invaluable,” Hartley said.
“He hasn’t been a defence coach before but he taught me something completely new today. I’m 32 years old and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks apparently but I learnt a new one today from Mitch. He’s doing a pretty good job already.
“It was just a tiny detail about the foot position in the attacking area and collapsing an attacker’s knee, things to put them off balance. A small detail like that is something I’ve never really thought about and the way he engaged me today was really good.”